Message from Bishop Gronberg
Across NT-NL’s territory, the signs of fall, other than the average high temperature, are evident. Schools are re-opening in various fashions in many places, the Dallas Cowboys are practicing again, and churches are contemplating fall programming and worship options. This is typically an exciting time of the year filled with new opportunities and ideas. Yet I am hearing from many of our leaders, and in conversations with leaders in other fields, that they are not excited or energized but instead feel stuck, exhausted emotionally and physically, and overwhelmed. And with this also often comes a sense of guilt and anxiety that because of how they feel, they are not measuring up.
These feelings are all understandable given the amount of change, adaptation, and learning that we have collectively had to go through, combined with deep division in our nation. Add twin hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, and our “surge capacity” has been largely used up. In addition, this pandemic is not like typical disasters. As has been noted before, when a typical disaster occurs, there are stages in the response cycle. But this pandemic, due to its nature, continues to impact, and its total damage has yet to be seen, and it is full of what has been described as “ambiguous loss.” These are losses that have no clear resolution, and as such, require creativity to manage. The article linked in this post addresses some ways you can be creative in that, but I am going to focus on just one of them: “both-and” thinking.
As Lutherans, we are familiar with the idea of “both-and” thinking. We are saint AND sinner. We embrace the law AND gospel. Jesus Christ is human AND divine. These are seemingly incongruous things to hold in tension, but we do so because they are a way of understanding the incongruity of our existence. We sin, and yet we are set free by the gospel. We know the law is good and we are to follow it, but we are not legalistic in our understanding of salvation and rely on God’s grace.
Living into the “both-and” nature of this time acknowledges reality but also encourages us to look forward, trusting that there will be a resolution to this current crisis. We can have our honest moments of being stuck, mourning our losses, but also recognize the creativity and celebrate new things that are happening in this time (for an example, check out the Abiding Grace, Southlake choir’s online performance from last Sunday and the many other ways musicians are finding ways to make music safely together).
“Both-and” thinking can help us navigate this time of ambiguous loss. To understand the difficulty of our situation and yet be able to look forward to what is to come. We can take seriously the losses experienced by our communities and minister to those in grief while also asking good questions about our future and that of our community. We can be wise about stewarding resources and protecting our neighbors by not having in-person programming but also respond to natural disasters that come in this time with open arms of welcome as Briarwood is doing for those who might have to evacuate from the hurricanes in the gulf.
This pandemic will come to an end, but we will not, as I have said, ever go back to “normal.” Too many lives have been lost, disrupted, and forever changed. But we can continue to learn through this time, take moments to evaluate the future of our congregations and ministries, and resource one another for this new work. Crises can bring clarity and prioritization. By living into the “both-and,” there is a way forward for us as we continue to trust the promise that our future is secure in God.
Briarwood Housing Assistance Offer
This letter offering housing and support for ELCA rostered leaders and church staff members was sent to the gulf coast synods from Briarwood Leadership Center this past weekend. Another way Briarwood and our synod are positioned and focused on service to our neighbors even in the midst of this challenging season. Please pray for our neighbors and for safety from these hurricanes. – Bishop Gronberg
Bishops Briner, Rinehart, Strickland, and Suarez,
The possibility of two hurricanes simultaneously striking gulf coast communities brings an unprecedented challenge and potential hardship to our leaders and communities. While at this time, it appears likely that landfall will occur in Bishops Rinehart’s and Strickland’s territories, we know that these storms are unpredictable and that it is possible for damage to occur in many places.
In this time, please know that your neighbors are aware and that our resources are ready to assist and serve you. While we pray these storms will not cause significant devastation, advisories from Lutheran Disaster Response have informed us that these storms could have unprecedented effects, causing significant damage and dislocation.
The next few days are critical for leaders in your areas. We stand ready to serve. Briarwood Leadership Center in Argyle, TX (www.bwtx.org) is offering temporary lodging free of charge for any ELCA rostered leaders or ELCA church staff members that need to evacuate or find themselves in need of housing. While our facilities have been kept offline during the Covid-19 pandemic we are able now able to offer a variety of settings to house individuals or families with appropriate social distancing in this emergency situation. Should this be needed, I have Bishop Gronberg’s assurance that NT-NL communities will step forward to help with food and other necessities as required.
I would appreciate you communicating this possibility to your leaders as you find appropriate. We will accept requests on a first-come basis as we can and will do everything in our power to assist anyone who is in need in this time. Our prayers are with you and our communities on the Gulf Coast. Please contact me at email@example.com with questions or any requests for assistance. May God bless and protect you in this time.
In Christ’s Service,
Robert O. Smith
Director, Briarwood Leadership Center
God’s Beautiful Dark Works | Las Hermosas Obras Oscuras de Dios
In her August column for Living Lutheran, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton says, “Darkness and blackness and night are too often contrasted with lightness and whiteness and day, and found deficient.” Let us “consider the beautiful dark works of God.” Read her column in English: God’s Beautiful Dark Works o lee su columna en español: Las Hermosas Obras Oscuras de Dios.
Featured Resources for August
Weekly Online Gatherings for ELCA Leaders
Wednesdays, 1PM Central
Join us TOMORROW, August 26, for The Role of Community in Addiction Prevention and Recovery with Vicar Michelle Knight.
You are invited to join this weekly online gathering designed to provide encouragement and support for ELCA leaders across the church. Participants will hear topical presentations related to how we are called to be Church, as well as have an opportunity to be in small group discussions with an ELCA group coach facilitating the conversation. This is where the magic happens. All of this is designed to help us process our emotions and thus create a space where we can each name our next most faithful step forward in our unique context. You are welcome to share this invitation with any other ELCA leader, rostered or lay. #ELCAChurchTogether
How have we been church, with individuals and with communities? How are we being church? How are we called to be church with all people, with creation, and in an ever-changing world?
We understand a number of folks are unable to make this day and time each week. We record the main session and the wrap-up time. We share each recording with supporting documents here by the following week: https://www.
You can find the login information and a list of upcoming topics and presenters on the home page of the ELCA Coaching website: https://www.
Save the Date
Recent Blog Posts
(https://www.ntnl.org/aug-18-despite-challenge-the-church-moves-forward/ – published Aug. 18)
(https://www.ntnl.org/briarwood-responds-to-gulf-hurricanes/ – published Aug. 22)
Where in the world is?
The bishop and staff have resumed limited in-person travel for special events or to tape or live-stream worship. The staff will wear masks for all services and anytime they are near people, either inside or outside a facility. All synod business will continue to be conducted by Zoom, including our synod council meetings and online assembly on September 26.
(No travel planned this week.)
With the ever-changing guidelines and recommendations in our world right now, as we maintain physical distance in social solidarity, please keep in mind these events may be moved online, postponed, or cancelled:
- Aug. 25: Living Connected: The Spiritual Discipline of Creation Care (The Gift of Water), Zoom
- Aug. 26: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders – The Role of Community in Addiction Prevention and Recovery with Vicar Michelle Knight, Zoom
- Aug. 27: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- Aug. 27: Conversations at Briarwood – Monuments, Memory, and Inclusive Justice (Jacqueline Hidalgo, PhD), Zoom
- Aug. 29: ESET (SSTE) Módulo 8 (Día 5 de 5), Zoom
- Sep. 2: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders – Expressing and Mourning our Grief, Zoom
- Sep. 3: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- Sep. 9: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders – What If I Said Yes? The House That Love Built with Sarah Jackson from Casa de Paz, Zoom
- Sep. 10: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- Sep. 10: Interim Pastors monthly meeting, Zoom
- Sep. 12: Parish Lay Ministry Academy, Fall 2020, Course 1, Zoom
- Sep. 12: Public Witness Team meeting, Zoom
- Sep. 13: “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday
- Sep. 16: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders – TBA, Zoom
- Sep. 17: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- Sep. 22: Orientation for Online Synod Assembly, Zoom
- Sep. 23: Orientation for Online Synod Assembly, Zoom
- Sep. 23: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders – TBA, Zoom
- Sep. 24: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
Access our full online Calendar here. Updates made regularly.
Do you have news or announcements to share? Please submit to Jason (firstname.lastname@example.org) for consideration for upcoming NT-NL News.